Scouting takes hold with youth behind bars

By: 
CAROLYN DRYER, Glendale Star Editor
Photo by Nancy Welton

Three Adobe Mountain Boy Scouts serve at the Governor’s Crime Victim’s Luncheon.

Adobe Mountain Boy Scout Troop 4, Grand Canyon Council, is like any other Boy Scout troop - Scouts earn badges, learn life skills and make new friends. The only difference is the troop is inside Adobe Mountain School which is operated by the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections. Nancy Welton, 62, has been a Scout leader since 2005. In 2007, she founded the troop at Adobe Mountain to help boys ages 14 to 17 through a difficult time in their lives. She said she never anticipated she would still be involved 11 years later.
Her husband, Chris Welton, is an assistant scoutmaster and so is her son, Cody Welton. An additional five assistant scoutmasters also help out.
But more volunteer help is needed.
“Anything on the other side of the fence is called the Outs,” Welton said. “People on the Outs are welcome to come in and help these kids learn new skills and confidence. Leadership and duty to God is also a component of scouting. Not one religion — it’s a nonsectarian organization. We open and close each meeting with a prayer, and I’m never lacking for kids to say the prayer.”
The scouting program celebrated its 10th anniversary in August.
“It’s a phenomenal program being recognized across the country and we’re very proud of that,” Welton said.  
Troop 4 was the first Boy Scout Troop in the U.S. to go behind bars, metaphorically speaking. The model is working well and now other Scouting Councils across the country are trying out or considering similar programs to reach boys who might not have ever had an opportunity to participate in scouting.
To date, Troop 4 in Phoenix has served more than 300 young men. The average stay at Adobe Mountain School is six to eight months. Troop 4 can take up to eight Scouts at a time. They meet weekly and participate in many of the same merit badges all scouts do and from time to time, they camp overnight on the facility’s athletic field, and occasionally are allowed to go on hikes or attend special events on approved furloughs with Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections security present.  
Welton said she spends about eight hours a week volunteering her time with scouting. She fell into her role in 2007, she said, “Because, quite honestly, no one else wanted to take the job.”
She was a proud mother of two Eagle Scouts and knew what an important role scouting played in her children’s lives.  
Troop 4 has a need for volunteers. They need adults over 21 years old to serve as a scout leader, volunteer as a merit badge counselor or sit on the troop committee. All permanent volunteers must be fingerprinted, go through a comprehensive background check and take a drug test. “Occasional volunteers” can be approved for a six-month span of time by going through a cursory background check.
Welton said, “I love helping at risk youth. These boys are mostly respectful and kind.  Scouting is providing an environment for them to grow and succeed. It’s really rewarding to see them turn their lives around.”
Scouting also gives the boys a chance to become boys again, Welton said. “They’ve been arrested, in the back of police cars. Scouting allows them to rediscover fun, go to the Outs and begin again. Back to school, go to college, seek a career,” Welton said.  “They are boys, they’re not adults, and many adults have failed them to get there; that’s the sad part.
“I look at it as a ministry of sorts to go and serve young people and give them hope for the future. It’s a beautiful opportunity to work with them. And I have fun.
“Have them become Scouts, not be gangbanging. They’re not horrible people, they’re absolutely not.”
Welton emphasized that there are no boys with violent crime backgrounds in the Scouting program.
Volunteers do not have to wear a uniform or go through the scout program. “You can be in business, be in communications,” Welton said.
To find out more about Troop 4, visit the Scoutmaster Nancy Face book page, where she tells the story of bringing the scouting program to adjudicated youth in the state of Arizona. The link to the page is
https://www.facebook.com/Scoutmasternancy/

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